Singapore: NRIs may get soft chewy Chapatis on inflated price due to wheat export ban from Modi govt

'It will be a drastic change, especially for people like Punjabi workers who eat up to six chapatis per meal every day,' said S. Mahenthiran, director of Gayatri, a popular restaurant in the Little India precinct of Singapore

Press Trust of India September 27, 2022 12:57:42 IST
Singapore: NRIs may get soft chewy Chapatis on inflated price due to wheat export ban from Modi govt

Representative Image. News 18

New Delhi-Singapore: In the aftermath of Modi Government’s ban on Wheat export from India, a lot of Indian restaurants in Singapore may stop serving the soft chewy chapatis to the consumers, mostly Punjabi living there, as the cost has gone up by three times on imports of the same from other countries due to the war in Ukraine, said media reports on Tuesday.

Singapore imports between 200,000 and 250,000 tonnes of wheat and 100,000 to 120,000 tonnes of wheat flour annually, according to data from the United Nations.

In 2020, 5.8 per cent of Singapore’s total wheat flour imports were from India, The Business Times reported. The bulk of the city-state wheat flour imports come from Australia, the US, and Canada.

Wheat flour from India, however making up only a small proportion of total imports, is sought after by Indian eateries, mostly because it produces soft and chewy chapati, an Indian staple.

According to the Supermarket chain FairPrice, the supply of wheat flour had been low due to increased demand in the past few weeks, possibly due to the Indian government’s ban on wheat and flour.

According to a report by The Straits Times, FairPrice’s suppliers, are now sourcing wheat flour from various countries like Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada, and the United States, since the ban.

“The (wheat) flour shortage will affect our business very badly. We cannot pass all the cost to our customers, we have to try and keep prices low,” said Mathavan Adi Balakrishnan, managing director of Sakunthala’s, one of the leading eateries in the Little India precinct here.

The restaurant used to pay SGD 5 (USD 3.48) a kg for wheat flour from India, but the flour from Dubai now costs SGD 15 (USD 10.45) a kg.

India, the world’s second-biggest producer of wheat, stopped exporting the grain and its flour in May in an attempt to put a cap on skyrocketing domestic prices after a heatwave parched crops and affected wheat supply.

The ban came amid Ukraine’s wheat exports being curtailed by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Ukraine used to be the fourth-biggest supplier of wheat to the world, accounting for about 9 per cent of the global wheat trade.

Some eateries have suspended menu items like chapati, poori bhaji, and tandoori as all of them require wheat flour to make.

“It will be a drastic change, especially for people like Punjabi workers who eat up to six chapatis per meal every day,” said S. Mahenthiran, director of Gayatri, a popular restaurant in the Little India precinct of Singapore.
Punjabi workers make up the bulk of Mahenthiran’s customers.

Stores here that import wheat flour primarily from India are sourcing for alternatives.
Megastore Mustafa Centre in Serangoon Road is looking to import wheat flour from the Middle East and Britain.

Its purchasing director, Mohd Saleem, said Mustafa shoppers can expect to pay more for flour due to the increase in freight costs. He did not specify how big an increase consumer can expect.

Owner of Punjabi and Bengal eatery Mustard Singapore, Radhika Abbi, 51, said many Indian eateries here will have to struggle with higher costs once their existing flour stocks from India run out.

She used to pay SGD 2 (USD 1.39) a kg for wheat flour but is now looking at paying close to SGD 8 (USD 5.57).
Abbi said the quality and texture of her eatery’s chapati would be affected when it is forced to switch to another source of wheat flour.

(With inputs from agencies)

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